The city of Kenai is continuing its efforts to capitalize on the July’s dipnet fishery. Last December, the council asked city administration to look into accommodating vendors near the beach.
A handful of businesses usually set up shop in the parking lot of the north beach to sell food or coffee or ice. Until now, there haven’t been any specific regulations for that kind of thing. Kenai city clerk Jaime Heinz told the council at its most recent meeting that this year, a pilot program will be launched to try and organize those businesses a little more.
“We did a survey. Those that responded felt that the venue could be better. They wanted to see some kind of exclusivity. They felt like easier access would be beneficial to them, as well as a specific vendor area. In the past, there were certain areas available to them, it wasn’t all in one area. They also suggested onsite electric and potable water. So we felt, in the near term...we could accomplish a couple of the suggestions.”
Streamlining the whole process and giving local businesses first crack at a beach location were priorities. To that end, in this first pilot season, an area in the north beach parking lot along the road that leads to the wastewater treatment plant will be the initial location for remote ventures. With limited space there, businesses will have to apply and applicants will be ranked based on services provided, hours of operation and, of course, how much they bid to get a spot. Bidding opens at $950, which Heinz says is a reduction when compared to standard parking and overnight fees that businesses have paid in the past.
“In the past, they’ve paid daily parking fees which, if they’re spending the night, it’s $55. If they have an additional support vehicle they’re bringing in and out, it’s an additional $20 a day so they could have been paying up to $75 a day. We’ve had vendors come in and pay the full amount up front and stay there the whole time.”
In that scenario, 21 days of dipnetting costs almost $1,600 at regular day rates. The special rate for vendors is meant to attract some more business with a long term goal of having the same services and goods available there each year, so that dipnetters might skip bringing coolers full of their own supplies and spend a little more locally. But with limited spaces, the bidding could take prices for a spot higher up.
“We have it exclusive as far as two food vendors, one specialty coffee vendor and one ice vendor. That doesn’t prevent them from selling other items, so if somebody wanted to sell firewood, they could do that. And in the case that we didn’t have enough of the specific vendors to apply for each spot, we would allow them to pay on a daily basis.”
In which case, the vendor would pay a pro-rated fee based on the highest bid for the spot. After this initial pilot season, the plan is to make whatever adjustments are necessary before codifying the program for future years.